We are so brainwashed that bigger is better that most of us rarely challenge the conventional wisdom. Indeed, when it comes to your financial portfolio, it's difficult to argue - bigger is better! However, when it comes to the education of our dear children, what’s better about bigger? It may be a well-kept secret that rural schools, due to their limited size, are actually better than their bigger urban counterparts!
1. Teachers have greater liberty to modify and accommodate individual needs
Tailoring education to meet individuals assists students who are challenged, and it encourages everyone to aspire to higher expectations. Smaller classes allow teachers to concentrate on their students’ strengths and weaknesses thereby enhancing performance and the building of student confidence.
For those students requiring speech, occupational or mental health therapy, the impact can sometimes spell the difference between a child who needs to endure another hour in the school at treatment and a child who walks into the clinical session encouraged and enthused by success in the classroom.
2. Higher levels of teacher satisfaction are reported for small schools
Greater teacher satisfaction means increased teacher retention. Teachers that remain in their jobs throughout the school year enhance consistency for their students. In a recent study, "The Small study Schools: Great Strides" found that teachers in small schools “reported greater satisfaction because they felt more connected to one another…”
However, the benefits of teacher enthusiasm go beyond the teacher. Students gain by becoming more interested and excited about learning, and one teacher’s enthusiasm rubs off on other teachers and staff as well, such as therapists who work with the children. Aside from giving the entire institution more consistency and stability, the atmosphere in the school can be become energized.
3. Small schools enhance social-emotional skills, leadership, and citizenship
It is only natural that students in small towns are more community-minded, which often leads to greater participation in the school. More engagement with the community fosters a more profound sense of responsibility as well. As a result, values such as caring and respect become taught.
When students feel that they have “more skin in the game” they try harder to make things work and strive for improvement when things don’t. Personal accountability and community service are more commonly found in small schools, which impacts therapy success as well. There is a newfound incentive for the child to solve that speech or mental health problem that may be the hurdle to greater involvement.
4. Children in smaller rural schools are poised for better relationships
Perhaps the most significant advantage is that students in smaller schools are often known and appreciated as a “whole person.” The small size allows them to develop closer and more meaningful relationships with both teachers and other students. Closeness generates more inclusiveness, safety, and security, often regardless of their differences.
Another benefit of strong relationships between teachers and students is that students feel encouraged to take risks both in the social and academic realms. Risk taking is critical to personal development and success in therapy as well which, often demands that the student goes beyond his/her comfort zone.
Recent research has found that the primary factor in student achievement was reducing the sense of anonymity. Think about it from the child’s perspective: “If I fail who will be there to help me recover?” The support of teachers and other students can’t be underestimated in giving every student - and especially those with challenges requiring therapy - the platform upon which to excel and become everything that child could be!